This blog post is an abstract of a recent article, I published in The Conversation:

So, how do we explain that people wilfully choose to ignore listening to all sides of an argument if ti comes from sources they personally diagree with or despise? Researchers called this phenomenon reactance. It is basically a lack of motivation to comply with someone else's ideas of good and bad. And since every form of communication starts with someone's own worldview which then has to pass through the filter of a possibly very different worldview of others, these rebellious reactions are not surprising.

In many areas in politics and social issues (e.g., debates of gay marriage, climate change, race, religion) we witness an increasing split and hardening of positions, whereby any attempt to focus on perfecting one’s own arguments has not helped the cause but rather led led to an impasse in advancing one's argument.

I do not want to be misunderstood as arguing that focusing on one’s persuasion skills in communicating is somehow wrong or unnecessary. After all, the study of communication has its origins in rhetoric and public speaking skills of the ancient Greeks and Romans. But next to rhetoric, which teaches the art of using persuasive tools, the idea of resolving disagreement through measured agreeable discussion, known as the dialectic method, played an equal role.  

Whereas the idea of the Internet as a democratic source of information and active engagement was noble, the Web algorithms that filtered what someone was exposed to along their interests created an echo chamber of one's own held opinions. It effectively reduced communicative competency to engage in human dialogue.

One way to arrive at practising a slower and more compassionate communication style is borrowing ideas from the "Slow Movement" by stepping away from instant responses and replacing the idea of conversations as a competition with a win-win mentality. On an individual level, we need to balance impersonal with personal communication, seek out and engage with opposing opinions on purpose, and try understanding the background for someone’s position by actively listening.

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